LOVE ON THE BRAIN
Written by Digital Press Team on February 14, 2023
What does love mean to you? This Valentine’s Day, we asked UCLA to send in their deepest desires, greatest heartbreaks, and meandering thoughts on love. You told us that love is an infinite longing, love is the need to be known, love is an inability to get over someone, but most of all, it is something to be shared. From fears of dying alone to flabbergasting love triangles, read on to learn the sprawling ways that UCLA students love, and how we responded.
“Don’t trust a Libra man who tweets about how much he likes you and makes you a playlist with a Citizen’s song”
Emily says: Dear star-crossed,
I am deeply sorry for your unpleasant experience with a man, let alone a Libra man. You know, Libras are symbolized by balance, which means he was probably exceptionally good at balancing you with all five of the other girls he was talking to. It sounds like this man’s love language was language, which is a dangerous way to be loved; having 280 characters written about you on the internet is kind of our modern-day equivalent to engraving something in marble, preserved in posterity for all time. And associating a song with someone is a special kind of heartbreak, for music has the stubborn ability to transport you back to the exact person you were when you first listened to a song. I’m sure that when you press play, the past floods in like sound permeating the air; you were younger, you were more naive, but most of all, you were still wanted by him. There’s a lot of grief for the person you used to be and the love you used to have, and music amplifies it tenfold.
Truth be told, I haven’t listened to Citizen but a quick search reveals they’re from Ohio; respectfully, how good can anything from Ohio really be? I believe that one day, you will meet someone who will make you a playlist filled with better artists from better states. But for now? I think you should indulge in the heartbreak. Keep on pressing the replay button on that playlist until it bruises. Read every tweet he wrote you until it’s been carved into the folds of your brain. Let everything, from the dessert that you shared on your first date to the crosswalk that he used to wait for you at, remind you of him. Cherish the feeling of being wanted, even if it was from the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. I think it is silly to pretend that you are ok with losing someone when you are not, and better to feel everything than nothing at all. I promise you that one day, you’ll get so sick of missing him that you will wake up and he will be the second thought on your mind, not the first. And as the days go on, he’ll be the third thought, then the fifth thought, then the eighth thought, and as you fill the rest of your life with new loves and experiences, he’ll be so far down on your list of thoughts that maybe you won’t think about him at all.
“dying alone :)”
Ali says: Of course you’re dying alone, we all are. Even if you were to die with someone, the actual passage of death can only be experienced individually. Don’t sweat it. 😉
“there’s this cutie in UCLA Radio but the more i interact with him the ickier he gets so my plan is to stay as far away from him as possible so he can stay sexy and mysterious in my mind”
Sam says: Hmm…this is a hard one. I think the more you interact with any man the more they get icky, because, well, they’re a man. And men kinda suck! Except when they don’t. Can you tell I’m single? But I need more information about the ick, though. Do you simply not find him cute anymore, after looking past his mullet and canvas tote? Or did you realize his personality is about as deep as Bad Habit by Steve Lacy? No shade to Steve, much shade to this IDTF cutie. I think in 2023, we shouldn’t let men speak anymore.
This is related to my point – maybe you avoid the ick and go straight for the, well, what starts with d and rhymes with ick ;). Have a make out sesh behind the station. If you find him cute, go for it. Less talk, more action. Don’t even let him tell you about his gross playlists that are supposed to make you swoon. The mystery is often way hotter than reality. Let me cite Sex and the City, Season 3, episode 12 (I made that up) when Carrie shacks up with Aidan, the mysteriously cute furniture maker. She literally gets bored of him in about ten episodes because the mystery fizzles the f*ck out (all he wants to do is eat fried chicken with her on a Saturday night). Then she goes back to her toxic-but-elusive ex with whom she has fire sex (what am I, Dr. Seuss?). Stay wary, girl.
I find that when I deal with men and relationships, there’s this rose tinted film over the whole thing at the beginning and I get sucked into their vortex (dramatic much, Sam?). Because for me, when it comes to love…the mystery kind of swallows me whole. I write off all their icks like a billionaire avoiding taxes.
Here’s my final advice: I’d probably try out our last names together a few times, engage in a passionate flirtation during intern class, and then completely lose interest once I realize he’s as one-dimensional as a smart board.
“We are friends that have feelings for one another but can’t be in a relationship so we’re awkward.”
Anna says: For basically my whole life I’ve developed crushes on my closest friends– from the girl in middle school where our friendship ended in a massive, public instagram falling out to the guy on my track team in high school who always walked me home– it’s natural to develop romantic feelings for the people you spend the most time with. You’re friends with them for a reason– platonic and romantic love are more similar than they are different.
While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I can’t help but wonder why you can’t be in a relationship. There’s always a million good reasons not to do something– but if it’ll make you happy, why not take the risk? If you’re scared of things becoming awkward, just think about how painful it is right now. If you tell them you want to be together and they reject you, it’ll suck. A lot. But the corny yet true saying “you’ll never know if you don’t try” really applies here. You don’t want to wake up in ten years, look around, and think about what could’ve been if you’d only been braver.
“She moved away, broke off plans for long distance, but we kept talking almost everyday. She just went away for a weekend and barely talked and I think she slept with someone. I feel used and I’m gonna break things off.”
Arami says: I’m really sorry to hear that. While I can’t say I’ve experienced anything like this, I do know what it’s like to end relationships that are reaching the end of their lifespan. It’s easy to feel like you’re unlovable especially after feeling used by someone who you cared so deeply about, and the post-breakup life that you’re thrown back into can feel even more confusing and lonely.
I don’t know how much you still care about this person, but if you have any excess love for this person that you’d like to offer, I think you should definitely give that love to the other people in your life that will reciprocate that same level of care and attention that you deserve.
If you feel like there’s no one on the receiving end, just know that there are tons of people here who would love to be your new friend or lover or life partner. There are people here who want you to join their band, to learn a new language together, to run a marathon with you, to start a garden, to watch that movie you’ve always wanted to watch, to write that food blog you’ve always wanted to write. Now that you’re no longer bound to this relationship with her, you’re free to open your heart to everything else the world has to offer. And it turns out that the world has great things to offer.
“I want to know what it feels like to be truly loved by another human being”
Jeslyn says: I’ll be the first one to assure you – you certainly aren’t alone. How does love, this simple four-letter word, have such an inexplicable grasp on the human condition? How can such an individually unique sentiment be so universally experienced? Above all, how does it feel to be in love? To be so wholly enraptured within love’s vagaries and complexities – to be so lost within the bounds of these simple four letters that no other feeling could ever fall into the same universe of equality.
Unfortunately, I can’t offer you the answers to these impossible questions. Younger me, admittedly, thought I could find them for a while. If love was the sun, I was Icarus. I wanted nothing but to brush its golden hues even for just an infinitesimal moment, naively rooted in the belief that love was something I could only reach if I got burned. To me, love was a supernova, an unattainable singularity I could only witness if I traversed the endless galaxy.
Within my desperate pursuit, I was too blind to see what was actually right in front of me: certainty. The certainty that, regardless how lonely it may feel at times – or how cheesy this may sound – love truly is everywhere. It may be hard to see, but if you look just right, you’ll know it’s there.
Hiding in between the orange slices your parents hand you while you’re studying for a test. Swirled into the Happy Birthday messages brightening your phone just as the clock turns 12:00 am. Flowing past your fingertips while you’re blasting sh*tty radio music and racing down the highway with your closest friends. Each and every little piece of happiness that you share with those you never want to forget – this is what love means.
Love is every fabric of joy, weaved together into one infinitely beautiful quilt. Blanketed across every space, person, and thing touched by your existence. The truth is, there will never be just one textbook definition that spells out exactly what type of love we’re all looking for. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be human. However, if you’re looking for what it feels to be truly loved, I promise it’s closer than you think.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get over my EX!!”
Ali says: Losing someone is never easy, but in relationships, an ex is an ex for a reason. In any way you perceive the situation or its dynamics, there will always be a great lesson learned after the initial period of grief and heartbreak. This could be a personal lesson about the way you acted during the relationship or a reassessment of the kinds of people you are attracting into your life. I urge you to use this time to reflect on and build yourself up because blaming yourself or anyone else is a cop-out from learning the lesson that you are supposed to. Ask the universe why it has brought about this lesson, and know that whatever emotions come up are valid and totally normal (except homicidal rage). If you are open to it, you can utilize these painful emotions creatively as every artist has since the beginning of time. Rest assured that time will definitely help heal your heart from the yearning for hard-found intimacy that this fleeting dystopia makes seem so unattainable, and know that it can once again be yours if you open yourself up to it, no matter what is happening outside of yourself, starting with self-love. Take care. <3
“love is so terrifying. i love so many things but i’m too scared to love people. i’m going directly against drake’s advice. but i don’t care, gotta keep the heart safe + happy.”
Amber says: You’re right. Love is terrifying. Absolutely f—ing terrifying. And if single is where you feel safe, then I encourage you to get comfortable the way a bear does before hibernation. If your love for things like a sport or artistic expression or anything else is enough to sustain you (really, truly, deeply), then all the power to you!
But be careful not to make a home out of shying away. Take stock of where you stand in your negotiation of self-preservation and the possibility of love. Be truthful with the one person for whom this soul-searching is consequential: yourself. I’ve been there before, and even as I wove true friendships and homemade pizza and life-changing books into the tapestry of my life, the quilt still somehow felt too thin at night. There’s something in this confession that sounds exactly like it: a confession. You’re too scared to love someone. Maybe loving all of these things, sentient or not, is a way of collecting many pillows and building a pillowfort to hide underneath.
It seems to me like you’re wondering how to protect yourself from the (probably) inevitable failure of college relationships. It also seems to me like you’re halfway there. Your varied interests and passions are you. A you that will remain through phantasmagoric situationships, brushes with the divine in the eyes of another, relationships that can’t help but fizzle out, and real, true love thats time simply hasn’t come. Your own being and soul is solid as a rock and rooted as deeply as a tree. In times of crisis, you can hold fast to the self you’ve actualized. For someone like you, romantic love is at no risk of overtaking your life and becoming a painful dependency. Therefore, heartbreak is slightly more manageable.
Love is a delicate thing, and I understand the existential fear of rupturing it through accidental manhandling. I understand the fear of falling into a black hole of desire so painful it threatens to jump out of your chest, and of not being able to pull yourself out. It takes courage. But we must remember that everyone we dare to love will live with us forever. Whether it’s through that one turn of phrase we’ve incorporated into our own vocabulary, a really great piece of advice, or the amazing band they’ve introduced you to, love is never lost entirely. Every experience has the potential to enrich your life, if you are open to it.
To love is to participate, fully, in the world. To free your heart to act as a heart and allow the joy, pain, and everything in between to pass. As it always does. Like Camus famously said, we must “live to the point of tears.” It’s the only way to experience the world, and the people in it, in all its resplendent beauty.
“Girls like to flirt with my barista boyfriend when he’s at work. How to cope?”
Arami says: Hmm… I think it might be high time for you two to start building up some relationship security. For the record, I think it’s completely normal to be jealous of other girls that are being flirtatious with your boyfriend. But if it’s making you feel so anxious that you’re worried he might become unloyal while he’s at work, I think both of you need to probably start building more trust in each other.
A wise woman by the name of u/Zuzus_Petals1946 once said, “…just remember that he’s with you because he wants to be.”
If both of you really do love each other, I doubt he’d be easily swayed by some random girl who’s ordering a matcha latte. I think the same applies to you as well. You clearly chose him over other guys for some pretty big reason, right? I think the first step to coping with this is to reassure him and gently remind him why he’s the man for you. The fact that he chose you and the fact that you chose him must mean something pretty huge, and I think you should hold onto that.
“Who broke your heart? This guy named *****. We were in the same class, got close there, moved it to texts. Talked everyday only to be led on because he was with someone else. #shocked #betrayal”
Anna says: WTF. Honestly, I’m sorry. Despite your lighthearted use of hashtags at the end of this note, I truly extend so much love and empathy to you as you figure out how to navigate this (semi- ?) heartbreak. It’s never fair to lead someone on, but at least you know you dodged a bullet because you deserve someone who will love and appreciate you in an honest way.
On that note, and not to defend ****** too much, but I can understand how things may have spiraled out of control for him. It’s intoxicating when someone likes you, when you establish a rapport and you’re nonstop waiting for their texts and calls. I’m sure the joy you felt when talking to him was matched, to some extent, from his end. The issue with that intoxicating feeling though, especially when you know you’re in a situation where you can’t see it through any further, is that it can make you do truly dumb things. I doubt ****** meant to hurt you, but he didn’t think about you very much either. Some people take “all’s fair in love and war” a little too literally– love’s powerful, intoxicating qualities and all its tentacles should often be approached with caution.
I wish I could say more to make you feel better, but I have a feeling you’re on the right track to healing because you’re sharing your story and the way it makes you feel. That’s the only cure– be honest to the world and to yourself, and love, the true love that you deserve, will find you. I’m sure of it.
“is a situationship worth it if it makes you happy? At what point do you need to cut someone off?”
Ella says: I think first off above all else, why would you cut someone or something out of your life if they genuinely make you happy? There are a bunch of factors that come into play here, but on the baseline, I say go for it until you’re no longer happy. What else is the point of love, relationships, life, if you don’t indulge in and run with your happiness? That being said, if manipulation is tangled in or if you’re being negatively affected in other ways, then it’s time to cut someone off, no matter how much the illusion of happiness has tainted your experience. These are the hardest situations to break out of, the hardest people to cut off. But true happiness awaits along with your freedom in these cases. Beyond this, happiness is relative. I think it’s important to be 100% transparent and real with yourself. You may convince yourself you’re happy in your current situation when you really desire something more, or aren’t getting the reciprocation you desire and deserve. It’s important to be honest with yourself, to know what you want to get out of a relationship and be real about whether you are or not. Self worth can be really hard to prioritize in relationships, because I think a lot of us are afraid of being unlovable, being alone, or never being loved by anyone else. But you are the prize, never forget that. The love that you deserve is the love you should seek, anything else is only a lesson in what you really want. And when it doesn’t live up to those standards — cut them off.
Ultimately all these factors change and differ for the individual and each situation, but like I said, if a situationship is genuinely making you happy as it is, without causing stress and without you necessarily desiring anything more, why not roll with it? I think our generation has also complicated the nature of relationships, with all these in between, back and forth, not full fledged, but not NOT committed, exclusive but not dating, situationships, just hooking up (but not with anyone else) labels that make it all seem more complicated. F the labels, who cares if a situationship is fulfilling enough? Remove the judgment of “halfway there” if it makes you happy. Honestly situationships can often be better, especially in college, in terms of reducing stress and pressures of a relationship. Don’t pressure yourself to label. Plus, messiness can be a good thing, who knows where it might lead 🙂
I personally live my life with indulging love in all its messiness, because what else is the point? Live each chapter to its fullest.
The lessons you learn, the friendships that could result, the experiences you have, the depth of your life, meaning is all about putting yourself out there and diving headfirst into love. Above all, if it makes you happy, I say go for it.
“The love of my life dated my mom and I wanted to die :(“
Ali says: Dear writer,
I must admit I have been ruminating over this question since I read it as I looked through the submissions we got. Namely, how old is the love of your life? Considering that you are enrolled at UCLA, that could put your age anywhere between 16-35+ (according to College Factual), but guessing by the way you wrote your note you are probably around the mid-to-lower range of that age bracket. Assuming that your mom is about two decades older than you, your mother is sus for dating someone substantially younger, especially if this person is around her daughter’s age. Otherwise, the love of your life is probably old enough that maybe you should reconsider their intention for being with someone in your age range anyway. Also important to note whether the love of your life actually knew they were the object of your affection, in which case your mom and them are evil for crushing, ripping, and stomping on your heart. If this person did not know, then perhaps this is a lesson to act on your interests in someone before your mother gets to them first (we would love to meet her). Either way, this is an anecdote that should serve as an example of a lesson that I am not too certain anyone can answer. Maybe Freud though. In light of Freud, please do not hesitate to reach out for help dealing with this messy situation to ensure you make it out with your heart, or with as much as you can gather from the rubble of this heartbreak.
“Love is something that I claim I haven’t spent much time thinking about. And that’s partially true. I wasn’t the kind of girl to think about her wedding dress or if I wanted chocolate or vanilla cake on my big day. At the same time though, I dream up little romantic scenarios in my head to help me fall asleep- just to wake up ever so slightly disappointed in my reality. Yes, I am single. And practically have been single my whole life. I know that it doesn’t define me and I know it’s not very 2023 progressive girl “get your fucking ass up and work” of me but sometimes, I want a boyfriend. I want a big ugly stupid man to make me smile. I wish I didn’t, I really wish I didn’t. And I know it shouldn’t bother me. It does though, and that’s the worst part. I’ve tried so many things to get love. I’ve worn different clothes, I’ve changed sizes, I’ve tried again and again to soften all my rough edges to be more approachable, to be more passive, to be more acceptable. None of it worked. Every night I was, and am, alone running through my night time imaginary scenarios- I’ve since tried upgrading to Colleen Hoover but that didn’t stick. So what is love? I guess I am a bad person to ask. For me, in this very moment, that question is just a really good song by Haddaway that too many people forget about.”
Lucy says: First of all, you’re not alone. So many of us struggle with these same thoughts, questions, and emotions. You ask, what is love? To be honest, I don’t have a straight answer for you. Love takes on so many different forms because every human being has a different set of needs; there is no single definition of love.
I think a more important question here is, why do we crave love? What is it about “love” that makes us feel so good? How can we find ways to feel good without it? We know that we need love from the moment we’re born–maybe not romantic love, but love nonetheless–so, why?
I know that for me, I crave love because I crave validation. I need to know that the person who loves me accepts my thoughts and feelings for what they are. As much as it’s hard to admit that I need external validation, I think that I speak for most of us. The only way to combat that need for external validation is to satisfy it internally. Give yourself some love. I know full well that it is cliché to tell you that you don’t need a boyfriend because you have yourself. I would have rolled my eyes at that line a few months ago. However, it’s the truth.
There are so many ways to practice self-love. I started with affirmations. Yeah, it’s definitely ridiculous to sit down with your journal and write “you’re valid” over and over again; but it’s worth it. Try replacing those before-bed-boyfriend-fantasies with some gratitude. Thank yourself for all that you accomplished today. Take yourself out on a date. Look in the mirror and remind yourself of just how beautiful you are. I promise that knowing your own worth makes it so you no longer crave that validation from anyone else.
Practice self-validation. It works. I mean, why not?
“I fully believe in love and am completely and entirely in love with my girlfriend. She is good for my soul.”
Anna says: Love is one of the most wonderful, special things that’ll ever happen to us. Like you said, it nourishes our souls. It makes us feel whole in ways we never thought possible. And the most wonderful, wonderful thing about love is that the vocabulary of love and the way it manifests in our emotions is almost universal, but the characteristics of ourselves and the people we fall in love with are unique. The way you describe your love for your girlfriend is exactly how I feel about my partner. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but we’re connected by this intangible thread of the love we share with the people in our lives.
“My deepest desire is to not be forgotten after I die.“
Ali says: Wow, such a deep question. I think there are several ways you can address this. First, you can always become infamous and go viral for doing something really stupid, bonus points if you die during it, because then you will ensure that no one forgets you after you die because they will be too focused on the (insert adjective of your choice) way you died anyway! A second way would be to actually become notable in whatever field of public life you would like to lead. This can range from acquiring fame for creative abilities, being philanthropic, making new discoveries that shake up the scientific world, or whatever else you think you can gain notoriety from. If none of those options works out, you can always strive to be as kind and loving as possible and know that the legacy of your kindness and love will echo long after you are gone in the hearts of those you loved and were kind to.
Ella says: Does it? Does love really suck? Or have you just had bad experiences with love, have you picked the wrong people to love? Is your definition of love too narrow? Are you only looking at it through one lens, the lens of romantic love? That gut wrenching, spine shivering feeling that courses through your pulse in the presence of someone who you… love? Is that love, or is it just lust, that purely physical attraction, our biological instinct to reproduce.
You say love sucks, but is this because you have or haven’t loved? If you have loved, was your heart broken, shattered, leaving you feeling like you must grasp for air to simply exist without them? Or have you never loved, or felt truly loved, to the point that you don’t believe in it? Did someone abuse your definition of love, did they take it, convince you it was the realest experience you’d ever had and then rip it away from you? Perhaps that was still love, at least you’ve always told yourself it was, as shitty as the ending might have been, you convince yourself it was still love so that you don’t go insane – spiraling into what was real and what was a lie.
Maybe the point I’m getting at is that love does suck. But it only sucks because of how beautiful, rare, all overpowering and real it is. Love cannot be so terrible without it being wonderful first. You cannot detest it without craving it, desiring it, at least the good parts. The deep, dark pain cannot occur without pure bliss. Sparklers die out, people change, life happens, but love is integral to all these transformations. Goodbyes only hurt as much as the hello’s were filled with joy. Love sucks, but isn’t that the point?